N.C. State head basketball coach Mark Gottfried evaluates players all the time.
But he discovered years ago that it is impossible to evaluate his children as athletes and knows that there is no way that he can impartially judge the play of his son Cameron, a junior starting point guard at Broughton High School.
Im not his coach. Im his dad, Gottfried said recently.
Gottfried recognizes what many parents do not: that taking an objective look at his child as an athlete is not just hard, it cant be done.
Just like a golfer who remembers only the good shots, parents remember the best games, the best passes, the biggest hits. And parents are emotionally involved.
Gottfried works with Cameron in the gym occasionally and talks basketball if Cam wants to, but Gottfried said his son has only one coach, Broughton Highs Jeff Ferrell.
I can only coach one team at a time, Gottfried said. I would never try to coach Cam when hes on somebody elses team. Jeff Ferrell does a tremendous job. We talk about many things, but rarely talk about how my son is playing. What I want to be is a dad pulling for his son.
Ferrell said whenever a player is caught between his coach and a parent, the player always loses. Should the player listen to his coach or to his parent?
If there is conflict between a players parents and me, the child is the one that is hurt the most.
When I talk with parents, I ask them to try to keep the child first," Ferrell said. "Their child is a very important part of my life now, and I know he is to them. We both want what is best.
Cameron Gottfried, who got more serious about basketball after becoming a varsity starter as a freshman at Gulf Shores, Ala., two years ago, said there has never been a problem with his dad pressuring him to play or contradicting his coach.
Ive never been in a situation where the coach was telling me something in one ear and my dad was saying something else in the other, he said.
Mark Gottfried said he has seen the problems that can be created when parents have a difficult time accepting a coachs autonomy.
Im a coach that also deals with parents, and I have seen parents ruin the players experience, Gottfried said. I dont want to be a part of something that would make it more difficult on my son. I just want to support him just as much as I can.
Ferrell said Mark Gottfried understands how to support his son, but never undermines or demeans the high school coach.
Im Cams coach. Mark has been in my shoes. He coaches other fathers sons. Im very fortunate that he knows what we are trying to do and he reaffirms it.
Ferrell said there always will be conflicts with parents about playing time or playing style or how their child is being used within the team. He tries to make the conflict a part of the educational process. If a parent has a concern, Ferrell asks the parent to have the child come by to discuss the problem.
Lets make this an educational experience where the child grows up some and learns how to handle this type of situation, Ferrell said.
If the parent wants to meet, Ferrell sets up a meeting but insists that the child attend, too.
The child needs to be in the room, Ferrell said. How else is he going to learn anything from the experience? Sometimes what I think is best for the team and what they think is best for their child doesnt mesh. Not everyone will be in agreement. There always arent happy endings.